Motivations for Emancipation Proclamation

September 14, 2015

Today, Discerning History published my following Emancipation Proclamation essay.

Was the Emancipation Proclamation Trying to Incite a Slave Rebellion?

Such an uprising would almost certainly have compelled Confederate soldiers to desert in order to go home to protect their families. Even if they were members of the nearly 70% of families in the Confederate states that did not own slaves such a rebellion could trigger a race war. The danger was a particularly sensitive point in states like South Carolina, Louisiana, and Mississippi where slaves represented over half, or nearly half, of the population. The Confederacy would have little chance of surviving a widespread servile insurrection that would require it to fight both the slaves and the Union armies.

Although there were few prior American slave rebellions, Nat Turner’s 1831 Virginia uprising confirmed they could be merciless racial conflicts. During their brief summer rampage Turner’s rebels killed nearly every White they encountered. A total of about sixty were massacred, mostly women and children.

Lincoln and his Cabinet
Emancipation_proclamation-450x275

One near-victim was George Thomas who was spared because he fled his home to hide in the woods with his mother and sisters. Thomas later became a famous Union general credited with saving an entire army at the battle of Chickamauga. Out of 7,000 Blacks in the region, Turner was only able to recruit about sixty followers. There were even reports that some masters gave weapons to their wards and that the armed slaves helped put-down the insurrection.

Some slave rebellions elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere involved more extensive genocide. One example was on the Caribbean island of Santo Domingo where a multi-year revolt culminated in the formation of the Free Haitian Republic in 1804. Although most Whites left by that time, the 5,000 or so who remained were systematically massacred. Some women who took Black husbands or lovers were spared.

Continued at the Discerning History website:(including all documenting footnotes.)

My Civil War books:

Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies
Trading With the Enemy
Co. Aytch: Illustrated and Annotated.

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